How to Read the New SDS Format

Safety Data Sheets (SDS), previously called MSDS, are a very important component of hazardous chemical safety. The SDS communicates chemical hazards, dangers, handling, spill control measures and more. They are essential to the safety of any golf maintenance operation handling hazardous chemicals. Employers should have an SDS for every chemical that employees use or are exposed to. OSHA also requires that all employees be familiar with the hazards and precautions of the chemicals they work with or are exposed to, so it’s important that employees know how to read an SDS. Employers are also required to make SDS notebooks readily available. Here’s a great example of how you do it:

sds notebook golf maintenance

Safety Data Sheets may look confusing, but a simple understanding of the contents and structure will help employees understand how to read them. Since the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), the structure of SDS’s has been standardized so that the information presented in every SDS has consistent headings and structure. This has made it much easier to teach and understand how to use an SDS. Let’s take a look at the structure and components of SDS’s under the new system.  

Each SDS typically has 16 sections:

Section 1 Identification of material and supplier 

Identifies the product, states the recommended use and supplier/emergency contact numbers.

Section 2 Hazard identification

Describes and classifies hazards and includes risk phrases that state the hazards of the substance. 

Section 3 Composition/information on ingredients

States the ingredients in the substance. 

Section 4 First-aid measures

States first aid care information for exposure. 

Section 5 Fire-fighting measures

States the flammable/explosive properties as well as how to extinguish in case of a fire.

Section 6 Accidental release measures 

Recommends measures to take in case of accidental release, including how to contain and clean.

Section 7 Handling and storage

Provides information on how to handle the product to minimize hazards to people, property, and the environment.

Section 8 Exposure controls/personal protection

Discusses control measures to minimize exposure and risk to the substance’s hazards. 

Section 9 Physical and chemical properties 

Details related to the substance, such as density, ph, boiling point, etc.

Section 10 Stability and reactivity 

States the reactivity hazards such as chemical stability, hazardous reactions, and more.

Section 11 Toxicological information

Describes the possible negative effects and symptoms related to exposure to the product. 

Section 12 Ecological information

Provides information on the product’s environmental impact. 

Section 13 Disposal considerations

States measures for disposal, recycling, and reclamation. 

Section 14 Transport information

Provides information for preparation and transport. 

Section 15 Regulatory information

Provides Hazchem code. 

Section 16 Other information

Includes the date of preparation or last revision. Sections 12-16 may be omitted in some SDS. 

All labels have the following elements:

Hazard Statements: 

This section describes the type of chemical hazard, as well as the degree of the hazard. Hazard statements are standardized to provide universal wording for hazards. They are each assigned a numeral code which is the same in every language. The code is created in the form of Hnxx. The number stands for the type of hazard – 2 is physical hazards, 3 is health hazards, 4 is environmental hazards. The xx numbers are sequential. 

Precautionary Statement: 

This statement provides the recommended measures to prevent the hazards associated with the chemical. It may contain phrases as well as pictograms. 

Signal Words: 

The signal word will either be ‘warning’ or “danger” which indicates the severity of the hazards. As you may expect ‘danger’ is more severe than ‘warning’. 


Pictograms are symbols that communicate information about the hazards related to the chemical.

GHS Pictogram Meanings

It’s imperative that every employee know how to read an SDS label, and understands the meaning of the hazard statement, precautionary statement, signal words and pictograms. It’s also important to note that section 4 of the SDS contains first aid safety measures. This is the go-to resource for what to do in case anyone suffers from accidental exposure to a hazardous chemical.


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